The event has been popular since it began in 2002 with more than 1,200 people attending the Chandler location last year, but has also grown in popularity with individual neighborhood block parties.
“Last year, we had 16 separate neighborhoods participate; as of Thursday we have 14 signed up, but I expect that to grow,” Eirich said. “We have them scattered throughout the city, and each one is as eclectic as the city itself.”
Eirich and fellow officers work closely with planners of established neighborhood watch programs and those residents who are interested in the event. “It really helps when neighbors know one another and they interact. They know each other’s patterns and develop a relationship,” he said.
He recounted a story he had heard at a recent meeting of the organizers of this year’s Night Out. A woman talked about a neighbor who had left for a long vacation. Another neighbor noticed the family’s garage door had been left open. Because the family had let the neighbors know their plans and had left a contact number, the door was able to be closed and locked.
“I can’t tell you how many times we had calls for service where neighbors have called in suspicious activity,” Eirich said.
Some of those calls had resulted in the capture of a suspect, while others may have just prevented a crime, he said.
“That is the goal of the event,” he said.
The night is designed for crime prevention awareness, but it also has value for all types of emergency preparedness including fires and earthquakes. Neighbors know which residents would need extra help in case of an evacuation, like the elderly and people with limited mobility, Eirich added.
“It is a real spirit of cooperation,” he said.
The night of communities taking to the street to bring awareness to local crime issues began in 1984.
The event was founded by the National Assn. of Town Watch, a nonprofit crime-prevention organization that works with crime watch neighborhood groups and law enforcement
Police, fire and other emergency responders fan out throughout the block parties and supply information and talk to residents.
Anyone who would like to have their neighborhood participate can contact Eirich at (818) 238-3235.